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What kind of World do you want to build, and who will live in it?

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

Reflecting on old artwork and how it can continue to inspire years after it has been put on the shelf.

Where to Start

As I scrambled to find cool artwork to share with two of my middle school classes, I stumbled onto this panel I created years ago. The memories attached to drawing this panel were not particularly fond memories. At the time, I was entirely wrapped up in pleasing a client, and I never got the chance to appreciate the work I created. Looking at it now, in a different light, I saw just how awesome and useful the artwork could be. I wanted something that would surprise and inspire my students, and I felt this would do the trick.

The Character looks out...

My students responded with, "ooh"s and "aww"s and maybe one "I've seen better." so I felt like we started on the right foot. From there I asked my students to describe what they saw. I pounced as soon as the first student mentioned the man looking out from his balcony. "What about the character?", I asked. This line of questioning allowed my students to touch upon the topics of figure drawing, proportions, style, shape language, and aesthetics. We made comparisons to popular references like Greek mythology and agreed that based on the world the character was looking at he belonged there.

How is a character's design influenced by the world they live in? the World before them.

After sometime, my students and I moved on to explore the world beyond that balcony. We zoomed in to discuss the landscaping, the architecture, and the marriage between the people and the natural world. We separated the planes of the panel, called out examples of layering, and happily and masterfully broke the whole thing up into shapes. One house was nothing more than a rounded triangle, with repeating semi circles within it. In an ongoing effort to help my students overcome the belief that something was too hard to draw, I spent months presenting them with complex (or busy) artwork and assigning them the task of simplifying that artwork. They all had grand ideas and imaginations, and it was my goal to equip them with the tools to be able to confidently access those imaginations and bring those worlds to life.

How can the real world impact and shape the world you create?

Where to Next

After the discussion ended my students worked on drawings of their own. Some of them sketched new characters while others revised old ones. Some students designed structures and landscapes while other focused on rendering embellishments and symbols. My old artwork now served a new purpose, and provided me with a new memory. It no longer belonged to one client, but now to a new community. When the class wrapped, and students shared updates on their artwork, the growth could go unnoticed, but I saw it. I saw the fear that was chipping away, and the confidence that was taking its place.

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